How to write an effective CV
The perfect CV is the CV that achieves the interview - no more, no less. If the CV gets your name on the interview short list it has done its job.
The good news is that your CV is the only part of the whole job selection process over which you have complete control. So it pays to make sure you get it right. Austin Banks will be happy to provide constructive feedback on your CV and offer any suggestions if we feel it will improve your chances of obtaining an interview.
In the meantime we have put together a guide that will help you avoid the common pitfalls and ensure the right information is included in the right order. There are no hard and fast rules but from experience, we have found the following format works best:
The best place for your contact details is at the top of the first page in the middle or on the left. Make sure you include your:
- Full Name
- Home Address
- Telephone Numbers (Home, Mobile and Work if you don't mind being contacted there)
- Email Address
It is a good idea to include your date of birth, marital status and your driving license status either here or at the very end.
Write a concise and punchy personal profile (aim for around 20-30 words). It must do two things. Firstly, it must encapsulate your career aspirations and secondly it must summarize what you have to offer your next employer.
If you have any professional qualifications or are studying towards a professional qualification, provide details here.
List your educational history in reverse order (i.e. Degree or A-levels before GCSE's). It is not necessary to list every single exam result for GCSE's. In most cases it will suffice to put the number of A-C passes.
This is arguably the most important part of your CV. As with education, list your jobs in reverse order starting with your most recent or current job. Think carefully about what skills you have used and acquired during each job. If you have limited work experience remember that even the mundane jobs have taught you something.
Now, for each job provide basic details including job title, company name and the start and finish dates of your employment.
Important: After each bullet point ask yourself "so what?" What does this mean to a potential employer?
For example, suppose you used the following bullet point:
- Operated Till
Does this offer the employer any insight into what you learned from the experience that might benefit them if they were to take you on? No
It might be better to put something like this:
- Ran a busy checkout serving the general public, which improved my ability to work under pressure and gave me experience in dealing with a wide range of different people.
The above bullet point offers much more of an insight into what you gained from the experience that might be of use to your next employer.
Apply the "so what?" question to all your bullet points and that will help you to create a CV that sells you in a positive light.
Keep this section brief. Two or three interests are enough. Think about what you write here before you list them. Employers can learn a lot about a person from their interests.
Crosswords and software design for example would suggest that the job seeker is intellectually able. Squash and Badminton might suggest a competitive personality. TV and reading might suggest that the job seeker prefers his/her own company.
Think about the kind of impression your interests create and be prepared to answer questions around this.
CV Dos & Don'ts
- Don't leave gaps.
- Don't use fancy fonts and borders.
- Don't try and be humorous (recruitment is serious).
- Don't list your salary requirements.
- Don't use the word "I" unless absolutely necessary.
- Don't use jargon.
- Don't use pictures or photos
- Do check thoroughly for spelling mistakes.
- Do use short sentences.
- Do use good quality plain white A4 paper if you are printing your CV.
- Do use bullet points.
- Do try to stick to 2-3 pages.
- Do take the time to get it right. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.